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More mechs from the vault, circa 1997-2007: part 3 of 3

My intro to part one applies here as well:

These mechs span about a decade of painting, some while actively playing BattleTech during regular matches with a friend in the University of Michigan student union (which I lost, no exaggeration, 100% of the time — but they were fun!) and some after moving to Utah.

The ones I painted while trying to get a fully painted force to the table tend to be pretty unrefined, and anything that wasn’t an assault mech got less attention too — I’ve always been a 100-ton goober, and the tiny ones just didn’t grab me as much.

Gunslinger

Let’s get this party started right: This Gunslinger isn’t the worst mini I’ve ever painted, but it’s the worst mini I’ve ever painted that I still own.

I’ve never stripped a mini and repainted it before, but I’m sorely tempted here. There’s nothing wrong with red/gold/black, and my paint application is mostly okay — but good lord is it boring. And desperately, achingly in need of an ink wash. And drybrushing? Maybe I was learning from my own tendency to over-drybrush and went to the other extreme: not drybrushing at all.

I also can’t unsee the “upside-down computer face” that is his head. And it looks like he’s wearing an adult diaper and swim wings — so in fairness, part of why this Gunslinger looks so dreadful is that the sculpt itself is dreadful.

Nexus

As a palate cleanser, this Nexus is pretty average for me at the time. Although again, like the Pillager in part two, there’s shading on this guy that looks like ink washing — which I was so sure I hadn’t done on any of my mechs. It’s not as heavy as the Pillager’s wash (or, if not a wash, layering?), so I bet I learned from that one and toned it down a bit here.

Piranha

Squarely back in drybrushing-only territory, and as a closer the little Piranha isn’t bad. All-black is a bit boring, but he does look better from the back. It’s hard not to like the Piranha, too — it’s such a goofy mech, fish-headed for no real reason except the joy of making a murloc BattleMech.

Piranha rear view

The “scaly” red in the legs, the fishbone-like tubing and ridges on the back — yeah, this mech is much more interesting from behind. I should have cut loose on the front a bit more.

And that’s it! That’s all of my old BattleTech miniatures. Every mech got a solo photo, and a representative sample of my vehicles got group photos. I learned a lot from painting these over the span of about a decade — which, compared to someone who paints minis as their primary hobby, is a staggeringly low number of figures for 10 years of output.

And that too is a learning experience: I’ve been at this for a long time, but on average across ~33 years I’ve painted . . . approximately 2.5 miniatures a year. I still have a lot to learn.

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BattleTech Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures

More mechs from the vault, circa 1997-2007: part 2 of 3

My intro to part one applies here as well:

These mechs span about a decade of painting, some while actively playing BattleTech during regular matches with a friend in the University of Michigan student union (which I lost, no exaggeration, 100% of the time — but they were fun!) and some after moving to Utah.

The ones I painted while trying to get a fully painted force to the table tend to be pretty unrefined, and anything that wasn’t an assault mech got less attention too — I’ve always been a 100-ton goober, and the tiny ones just didn’t grab me as much.

Zeus

My overly heavy drybrushing (in the wrong colors) here kind of works — entirely by accident, but still. The Zeus is a classic design replete with little lines, radii, and circles, and drybrushing picked those out pretty well. Like a lot of my mechs from this era, he looks weathered; that’s neat.

Kingfisher

I committed hard to my unit color scheme of black with red highlights/unit markings, and it didn’t always work out well. But on the Kingfisher, I like the red legs and weapons. This looks like a mech piloted by some grizzled, battle-hardened mechwarrior with a call sign like “Blood Fury,” known for wading through the blood of her enemies.

Pillager

Up close I can see that I needed to spend some more time concealing the base that went into the larger base. Metallic silver and metallic gold also looked better in my head than they do in reality.

Pillager rear view

I want to play around with sharing two views of some of my minis, and the Pillager is a good one to start with. For one thing, the silver/gold combo works better here — especially in the vents/fins on the legs.

For another, I’m seeing depth in those fins, and in other places, that looks like it could only have come from an ink wash. Maybe I drybrushed this guy in black? Or maybe after ~20 years I’ve just forgotten that I did experiment with ink washes before learning about the Dip Method? I wish I knew for sure, but I don’t.

Score another one for the lightbox on that front: I was 100% sure I’d never tried a wash before 2010 or so, but I’m not nearly as certain anymore. Whatever I did to the Pillager was overdone, but also somewhat effective.

I really, really have not being giving past me enough credit as a minis painter — and it’s held me back from doing more it, and from finding joy in the work. No more!

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BattleTech Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures

More mechs from the vault, circa 1997-2007: part 1 of 3

These mechs span about a decade of painting, some while actively playing BattleTech during regular matches with a friend in the University of Michigan student union (which I lost, no exaggeration, 100% of the time — but they were fun!) and some after moving to Utah.

The ones I painted while trying to get a fully painted force to the table tend to be pretty unrefined, and anything that wasn’t an assault mech got less attention too — I’ve always been a 100-ton goober, and the tiny ones just didn’t grab me as much.

Starslayer

In hindsight, I can feel my frustration while painting this guy — which led to over-drybrushing. I wish I’d known then that an ink wash would have eliminated that frustration and prevented me from desperately drybrushing the shit out of this model and thinking, “Why doesn’t it look how I want it to look?!”

Perseus

The pose combined with the rusty look I chose for this Perseus makes him look like a stern old grandpa. I’m kind of digging it. Also, I did a pretty good job on his missile battery — the rim is mostly even, and every missile port was hand-dotted because (again) I didn’t use an ink wash on him.

Goshawk

This Goshawk sculpt looks like he’s swaggering into the club, knowing he’s big king swinging dick. I kind of like the green/yellow color scheme.

Nobori-nin (Huntsman)

The Huntsman is kind of fundamentally doofy-looking, and I’m not sure I did him many favors. Despite the over-drybrushing, I do like how his legs turned out; there’s some reasonable depth to them and they look nicely weathered.

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BattleTech Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures

A bevy of old BattleTech vehicles in the lightbox

I’m not going to go as deep into a self-critique on these as in my previous BattleTech minis post, mainly because most of what I said there stands for these minis as well: they needed shading and I over-drybrushed (and generally not in the right color), but they also show effort and look dandy on the table.

I’ve got multiples of many of these vehicles (like any good tabletop army), so I’m just going to throw up one of each type here.

Enter the box of light

First in the box are these two Games Workshop tanks (from Epic 40K, I guess?), which I used in combined-arms games as 100-ton tanks. It’s been so long that I don’t remember if those were the product of house rules, but whatever the case I do remember having a devil of a time finding BattleTech tanks that felt like they were 100-tonners. These fit the bill.

Definitely not BattleTech miniatures

They’re two of my favorite vehicle minis that I’ve ever painted, and I put a lot of time into them back in the day.

Mixed BT vehicles

I like these, especially the cheerful green one with his little headlights.

My quick and dirty color scheme got me through a lot of models back in the day

Base coat black, pick out details in red as unit markings, drybrush (waaaay too heavily) in white, and then onto the table! It got the job done. These look pretty rough as a result, though. If I painted them now, I’d figure out what wash to use on black and then drybrush in medium gray rather than white.

More mixed BT vehicles

The two hovercraft are tiny, and I remember being frustrated by them and putting in the bare minimum to get them table-ready. The little grey missile tank is kind of neat, though.

And to close, these two unprimed beauties — which, I have to say, I’m looking at in a new light now: as possible future painting projects.

Atlas and Ti T’sang

I think I was working my way up to the Atlas back when I played BT; it’s such an iconic mech that I didn’t want to mess it up. I should just have painted it!

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BattleTech Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools

Experimenting with photographing my painted minis in a lightbox

After seeing Warpstone Pile‘s cool setup I bought an inexpensive lightbox to use for photographing my miniatures.

For $20, this DUCLUS lightbox (paid link) — one of dozens of cheap lightboxes on Amazon — offered some features I really liked.

  • Folds up for storage in the included bag
  • Built-in LEDs with a dimmer switch, 95+ CRI, and a button to switch between cool, neutral, and warm light
  • If you turn it off while it’s plugged in, it has setting memory for both brightness and color temperature (it resets when you unplug it)
  • Five fabric backdrops, including black — the one wanted to start with

Here it is with the black backdrop in place, on the lowest light setting, with the LEDs set to neutral white. As a flashlight enthusiast who’s obsessed with high CRI and neutral white in my lights, I’m pretty happy with the light this puppy puts out.

DUCLUS lightbox

I’m just shooting with my phone because it’s easy: shoot, email the pics to myself, and then crop, auto-adjust and -contrast in PhotoScape, and they’re ready to upload. Getting out my Serious Camera would only reduce the likelihood that I do this at all. Pitter patter!

I chose my favorite paint job that I did back in ~2007 for my first victim: this 100-ton Behemoth. I’ve always loved assault mechs and this is a great design; I spent a lot of time painting it back in the day. It’s one of the first minis where I felt like I had my drybrushing down.

Painted Behemoth in the lightbox

But in the lightbox? Oof, that close-up under even lighting is really unforgiving. This mini is absolutely good enough for tabletop, and it looks sharp at arm’s length — my usual painting standard. But here I can see that I over-drybrushed, perhaps to compensate for not doing a wash. I’m pretty sure I didn’t drybrush in a complementary color, instead just using my default white.

Still: not terrible! This post, and my evaluation of my past work, isn’t about tearing myself down. I’m not winning any Golden Demons, but I’m not as bad a painter as I’ve long felt that I was — even under the all-seeing light of the DUCLUS. I’d play proudly with this little Behemoth in my force.

Next up is this Bushwhacker, which I painted with a metallic base coat. Definitely from around the same time as the Behemoth, in terms of when I painted it.

Painted Bushwhacker

Over-drybrushed, not washed, and I can see I wasn’t great at removing mold lines either. The rocks on the base are glued down, but I suspect they needed to be varnished or something to help them stay in place. I like the look, but I don’t plan to base minis this way again — the little rocks fall off quite easily.

But overall, I’m not sad about this little dude either. There’s ample room for improvement, but even in the lightbox I’m pretty happy with how he turned out.

It will be fascinating to compare these to some of my later dipped (washed) minis and see how they stack up.

Anyhoo, I’m quite pleased with this lightbox and I look forward to sticking more minis in it. Being able to shoot photos without worrying about having good exterior lighting (sometimes a challenge in Seattle!), or finding just the right spot in the house, should make it a breeze to keep doing these posts.

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BattleTech Miniature painting Miniatures

Unearthing my old BattleTech miniatures

What’s in this ancient, dusty Games Workshop thundercase?

Why, it’s full of BattleTech miniatures!

My old miniatures case

(This is a great case, by the way. I have no idea if GW makes this particular model anymore, but it’s bomb-proof and has survived at least five moves across three states over the years.)

How full?

Layer one
Layer two
Layer three

Pretty damned full.

Layer one is the legacy of my college friend — whose name, curse my memory, I cannot recall for the life of me — who was big into combined arms battles. We played with beefed-up vehicle rules, 100-ton tanks, and generally many more vehicles than mechs.

Layer three, apart from the tiny hovercraft in the bottom row, is just overflow stuff.

But layer two is the bread and butter for me (as much as I enjoy the tanks — especially the monsters). I can see a couple of minis in there that I’m actually proud of, as well as some primed mechs just waiting for the touch of the brush after all these years.

How many years? My college BattleTech days (the last time I played the game) are 20 years in my rear view mirror, but I was still painting these when I moved to Utah. I have a vivid memory of working on the big green hundred-tonner in layer two in the house my wife and I rented before we got married, so that dates my last paint job here to around 2007.

I recently bought a lightbox, and these are the oldest painted miniatures I own, so I’m going to get the box set up and share and evaluate some of my work in an upcoming post.